Friday, October 28, 2011

TTWW: London Day 3

Day three was BUSY. That morning Miles had scheduled to go in for a quick conference call with the SSI London office. We attempted to leave at a reasonable hour (early) so he could get there for the call. However, we got a bit lost trying to find the office and there 20 minutes late. When he arrived, he signed in downstairs and went to the elevator. He rode to his floor but we greeted with doors that required a card entry. Luckily there was a woman on the elevator with him who let him in when he told her about the call. He asked around to find out where he should go and no one knew who he was or what "meeting" he was talking about. Someone showed him where a meeting had taken place, but no one was there. So after a pointless attempt, we left.

Our next stop was nearby at the Soane Museum. We got there a little before it opened, so we just sat in the nearby park, people (and dog) watching. The Soane Museum was pretty interesting. Here is a little blurb I found here, about Sir John Soane and his home:

Soane was born in 1753, the son of a bricklayer, and died after a long and distinguished career, in 1837.Soane designed this house to live in, but also as a setting for his antiquities and his works of art. After the death of his wife (1815), he lived here alone, constantly adding to and rearranging his collections. Having been deeply disappointed by the conduct of his two sons, one of whom survived him, he determined to establish the house as a museum to which ‘amateurs and students’ should have access.

Here is a picture of the outside of the home (as they wouldn't allow any pictures inside), as well as some walls they have built up while they are doing construction/restoration on two unfinished stories of the home.

The inside was crazy. It was super eclectic with items everywhere (statues, paintings, books, stonework, stained glass, furniture, etc.) Basically everything was an antique and likely very valuable. You could look in all directions, including high above you on the walls, or small nooks and crannies, and find something to look at. Here is a picture found on the same site that shows a view from inside.

He actually had a sarcophagus in the basement. Apparently he acquired it when the National Museum of London decided it was too expensive to buy. I can't remember how much he paid now, but I am sure it was a lot for the times. He seems like he was a very interesting person.

Following that, we went across the park to the Hunterian Museum. It is located in the Royal College of Surgeons of England. (This should give a clue as to what the museum is like.) There were definitely some things that were interesting, but there was a whole lot of gross going on too. There were a LOT of animals/human body parts displayed in formaldehyde, pictures of surgeries, etc. Some of the interesting displays were the extinct animals, paintings of abnormal humans, old surgical tools, and a skeleton of a 7'7" tall man. Here is a picture I found here showing the skeleton (and lots of jars of formaldehyde).

After we were both sufficiently grossed out (surprisingly, Miles tapped out before me) we went to Covent Garden. It's a pretty cool place. It's kind of like a street market with other shops surrounding it, that also has street performers as well as singers and entertainers. It was fun to browse the vendors and walk around. I also had to take a picture of the Laduree that was there. It is a fancy French store that sells super expensive macaroons. My Mom and I went when we were in Paris.

Here are a couple of the street performers that we watched while we sat and ate lunch. They were fine. Nothing too exciting. The guy on the right put his body through the frame of a tennis racket while riding a unicycle and sharing his dirty British humor. Nothing to get too worked up about. However, the thing that really bugged me and Miles is that no matter who they were, it seems like all street performers have the same schtick. They all spend at least half of the time telling you how great they are, and that they spend hours training, and this is how they make their should obviously donate money to them. And the more the better. Blah, blah, blah. It's just too much of a sale's pitch for us.

Once we were done being haggled for money, we walked over to Leicester Square. On our way I took a couple pictures. I loved this frozen yogurt store name:

I also thought this was a cool view of a quaint London street and buildings:

And here is the London Hippodrome. I believe it is used for theater and other events.

Our main goal in Leicester Square was to see about getting broadway tickets from the TKTS booth where they sell discount tickets to shows. It took us a while to find the place. We wandered into the huge M&Ms store.

Then we wandered through China town.

Finally, we found the booth. Most tickets were either sold out, or still super expensive because it was a Friday. And apparently, Wicket is always sold full price at the TKTS booth. So we passed on buying tickets that day.

After that, we went to yet another museum - the National Gallery...which is BIG. It was somewhat interesting, but really the best stuff was the impressionist/modern area - Van Gogh, Degas, Monet, Mannet, Seurat, etc... I thought I snapped some illegal photos, but I can't find them. Ah well.

After that, we went where? Oh, right...another museum - the National Portrait Museum. Again, the modern areas were the most interesting. Miles had about had it with standing and looking at paintings, so he sat (and fell asleep) while I wandered through the rest of what I wanted to see.

I woke him up and we headed back over the the shopping area I had gone to the day before. I wish I had taken him into Harrods so he could see it, but I think we were both pretty worn out by then. We checked out some trendy shops (Top Shop, Zara, etc.) I felt like they were very expensive. (Apparently not for the two French teenage girls that were in the other room of the flat we were staying in, since they spent hundreds of pounds shopping in the few days they were in London.) We wandered around a bit more, then headed to the train station to buy tickets for Bath the next day, and then headed home.

We made dinner and chatted with Laura (the flat owner) for a long time. We talked about health care (In England, they get one year of maternity leave with descending pay for the whole time. They generally have good benefits, but it is not uncommon to have to wait to see a doctor for up to a month. However, if it is an emergency, they can go to the hospital.), religion (She's Jewish, we're LDS. She said she watched Big Love. We answered her questions about our religion and misconceptions she had about it from the show. We discussed how it will be for she and her husband, Camilo to raise a family since she is Jewish and he is Catholic.), work (they get 5 1/2 weeks of leave. She could not believe we get so little vacation and said, "How do you have proper family time?"), etc. It was a good, long, deep discussion. I really enjoyed it and I appreciated her open, honest, nonjudgemental demeanor.

I attempted to Skype with my baby, but since we had talked so long I missed my chance before he went to sleep. :(

After ALL of that...we finally went to bed...LATE...for our early morning to Bath the next day.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

TTWW: London day 2

Our second day in London was Miles's work conference (the reason for coming). He left early in the morning to get there on time. After he left, I slept in for another 3 hours which really helped me to get adjusted to the time zone and feel more refreshed since I hadn't slept well prior to him leaving. Originally I had big plans for a busy day in London without Miles, but sleeping in cut that short.

I started off by heading over to Harrods. I knew Miles wouldn't be that interested in perusing an extremely large "mall." Granted, Harrods is much more than that, but still. However, at first I got distracted by the big H&M that was nearby and ended up doing some shopping. After stepping into Top Shop and Zara, I finally ventured to Harrods.

It was pretty confusing to me at first. It's not like most American malls where there is an open space in the center, around which all the stores are located. I guess it is like that in the sense that the Egyptian Escalator is in the middle and everything branches off from that. But you can't really get your bearings that well since everything is closed off and you can't see multiple stores at onces. Anyway, I kind of just wandered to begin with checking out all the extremely expensive items. The lip handbags pictured below were 400 pounds +. I wish I'd known more of what I should have tried to see, because I later heard the hat section is a lot of fun to explore. (Imagine William and Kate's wedding with all the crazy hats the guests wore).

They had all kinds of incredible things in this department store. Like an art gallery...

...and a Christmas store...

...and my favorite...a huge section they have dedicated to Harry Potter. They also had some of the dresses Hermione wore on display.

After spending a decent amount of time there, I decided I should head out to see if I could hit the Museum of Modern Art on my way to meet Miles. On my way over there, the tube let me out by St. Peter's Cathedral.

This is the building I thought was St. Peter's at first. (Yes, laugh away...I didn't know what I was looking for).

Then I turned and saw this: 

I thought, "Oh...what a cool building. It looks like our capital buildings do." And then I turned back to the other building. After a few minutes, I decided I must be wrong and walked toward the correct St. Peter's. I was totally awed by the sight when I came around and saw how big it was.

I enjoyed my walk past it while taking in all the protesters (occupy London stock exchange). Miles and I read an article later that week that stated multiple of the higher up clergy at St. Peter's ended up resigning over the protesters. I guess they were getting a lot of pressure from the city about whether or not to continue to allow them to stay on the grounds outside. Some of them didn't want to be in the middle of it, so they just quit from their positions. Pretty crazy.

After taking my time walking around, I realized that I was not going to have enough time to go to the museum and still meet Miles on time. (Later, I decided this was untrue). I walked toward the Millenium Bridge (a foot bridge to cross the Thames).

I liked seeing the International Headquarters for the Salvation Army. (Miles made fun of me for taking a picture of it).

This was a street performer on the walkway between the Cathedral and bridge. I thought he was pretty cool.

A couple pictures of the Millenium Bridge. You can see the Tate Modern (where I didn't go that day) on the right side, across the bridge. 

Then I walked along the river to get to the hotel where Miles was presenting. I thought this sign was pretty gross...and rather telling of how disgusting the river looks and how dirty I thought London was in general. Seriously...every night I would go home and blow my nose and my snot was black. I gross. I guess it was from the dirt and stuff flying up in the tube stations? I don't know. 

A view along the river.

I eventually found Miles's hotel and sat down to let my feet rest. After a while of not seeing him (or any business people leaving the hotel) I wandered downstairs and found him. He was chatting with a Brit about his presentation. After a bit, we left to go find dinner. We had heard good things about the Indian Cuisine in London and asked the concierge for a suggestion. He told us about a place called the Bangal Tiger that was nearby. It was a good meal. And while some things were better (the nan specifically) than the Indian we get in Provo, we thought it was fairly comprable and in general kind of pricey. Not to mention the jerk waiter asked what we wanted to drink. I said water, and didn't realize he'd be charging us 5 pounds for the bottled water he poured us. Miles had even attempted to stop him from doing it and asking if it was tap, but he ignored Miles and gave it to us anyway. Ah well...another lesson learned - Always ask for tap water if you don't want to pay an arm and a leg for bottled.

We were both pretty tired after that and headed back to the flat. However, we first stopped by a grocery store to pick up some food for meals for the next few days. It was while we were grocery shopping that I realized that I was feeling strange about being in London as compared to other places I had been in Europe. I was expecting things to feel more foreign, but found myself staring at numerous American brands of food items. I think I was a bit disappointed that it felt so familiar, but at the same time it was nice to have the comforts of home.

Some differences are the bread. Most of it was really light and airy, without much substance. (At least I couldn't find any hearty breads). They also have some yummy rice puddings of all different flavors that we frequently ate for breakfast. And of course, they have WAY better chocolate than we do. Although, Aeros were suggested to us, and neither of us liked them and ended up giving them to our hosts. Another difference is these lovely flavors of Pringles...(we stuck with Salt & Vinegar).

After carrying our heavy load of groceries home, we crashed.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

TTWW: London Day 1

Miles got an opportunity through work to go present at a one day conference in London. After discussing it, we thought it would be awesome if I went with him and we extended the trip for a nice vacation. My mom was incredible enough to come stay at our place and watch Owen so we could go for a 10 DAY TRIP! So amazing! So here we go on the London recaps.

Our flight to London left at 2:30 PM. We flew to Dallas, Ft. Worth where we had a layover. We couldn't remember how long the layover was, but knew our flight was supposed to board around 6:55 PM. Both of us were starving, so we decided to grab some dinner before we left in case they didn't feed us dinner on the plane. We sat down at a nice restaurant and I told Miles we had about an hour before we needed to go. I grabbed his phone to see about doing FaceTime with Owen before we left. I looked at his phone and I said, "Your time changed! It says it's 6:45!" I jumped up and asked a waitress what time she had. She told me, and I realized that his phone was correct. We apologized and told them we had to run. Luckily we hadn't ordered anything yet. We ran downstairs and to the counter where they told us they would be boarding in about 10 min. We grabbed a small sandwhich to share since they wouldn't be feeding us for about 3 hours and made in on board in time. Thank goodness for smart phones! We would have been devastated if we had missed our flight! Whew!

While walking through the airport Miles noticed all the missionaries lined up talking on the phone. Not having been on a mission before, I didn't realize this is one of the last times they are able to call home before flying out to their destinations. Aw...such sweet little servants of the Lord.

This was just before we got in line to board the plane. We're on our way to London!

A note about the flight itself. It was miserable. First of all, we didn't have personal entertainment centers. They had a few TVs sporadically throughout the middle of the plane. We were sitting on the left-hand side with a TV only about 2 rows ahead of us in the middle. We had to crank our necks if we wanted to watch. Not to mention they said they would be showing two movies, but only showed one, and then a bunch of sitcoms through the night. It was super lame. I attempted to sleep as best I could, but couldn't. Our seats were way cramped (far moreso than I remember the last time I took an international flight 5 years ago) and very uncomfortable. I eventually found a side row (of two seats) that was open, so I attempted to squish my body into those two seats and sleep. Didn't happen. Just as I'd start to doze off, I would realize that my leg was losing all feeling from laying on it funny and blocking off my blood flow. It was a LOOOOOONG flight without anything to watch or being able to sleep.

Ok, back to the fun. We landed in London in the morning and decided to take the Express Tube to the center of London. We figured it would be far faster than doing as our hosts had suggested and taking the Picadilly line all the way to their stop. Yeah...we're stupid. In doing that, we had to change tubes three times, often going up and down stairs with all our luggage. In all reality, it might have saved us a few minutes, but nothing substantial or worth doing when we could have just sat down, slept for a bit, and ridden all the way to our stop. Lesson learned.

Here is our first time "minding the gap" and riding the tube:

We arrived at our stop, found our lodging and settled in. We ended up finding our place through Airbnb. It's a site where people can list their places (entire homes or just a room) for rent. It was far cheaper than any hotels, and we weren't that far from the center of London. It was awesome too because Miles's work had offered to pay up to 150 pounds per night for the first three nights he was there (conference related lodging). However, this place was so inexpensive we were able to pretty much cover the entire expense of our stay with that money. It was a small three bedroom flat with two bathrooms, a kitchen, and living room. It was also nice though because we were able to buy food from a grocery store and make most of our meals rather than eating out every meal, every day. Not to mention that the hosts were AMAZING. (More on that later).

After we got settled, we decided to use the rest of our day to explore London. I had read some good things about the Big Red Bus Tour, so we decided to do it. We thought it would be a good way to do a quick sight-seeing tour of London and get our bearings. Here's the thing though. For us, in our situation, it was a stupid idea. It's a 24-hour ticket that allows you to hop-on/hop-off at all the stops in the city. Which is great, if you want to jump around and hit certain spots. However, we only had a few hours left in the day, and the following day was Miles's conference. This meant that he wouldn't be able to use his ticket for the majority of the time for which we purchased it. It's supposed to be an audio tour, but the talking was pretty minimal and very quiet. And on top of it, I was SO exhausted after our long flight and no sleep, that I could hardly keep my eyes open. I kept nodding off and would try and slap myself awake. Overall, it was a big waste of money and we should have just wandered around and maybe checked out a couple specific places. I think we were too tired to think through all of that though.

On to the pictures...

This is a collage of our bus tour - including shots of the tower bridge, Big Ben, the countdown to the Olympics, among other buildings and sites.

After our tour, we grabbed some food. Both of us were dying to find a place that sold doner kebabs. Miles discovered them on his mission to Germany, and told my mom and I about them on our Europe trip in 2006. My mom and I ended up trying at least one in each country we were in. Most were good, some great, but the best was in Germany. After asking around a bit, we found a place across from King's Cross Station. It appeared to be what we were looking for, but was sadly disappointing. It was not really the same at all, and not nearly as good. Also, they were kind of pricey, and we should have just shared because they were huge.

Here is Miles eating his kebab while riding the tube on our way home:

After that, we went home. We were both so tired we just wanted to crash. Not to mention, Miles had to be up early the next day for his conference.

And this is just a little view of what's to come. Don't worry, I won't actually post ALL 1000+ pictures. :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Travel The World Wednesday (TTWW)

Basically since the beginning of the year, I have been contemplating starting a regular, weekly blog post. Obviously, since I am always so far behind in my blogging, I haven't actually started it. However, I decided it was time. I really hope I'm on top of things enough to do a post each week. We'll see. If not, it will be a sporadic (yet always on the same day of the week) post.

As seen by the title, I have decided to name it "Travel The World Wednesday." I know I haven't done a TON of traveling in this world, but I've done some. I'd really like to document my trips to different countries, states, and even cities. Don't worry, hopefully there won't be anything as lame as a trip to Salt Lake (those will just go down as a normal post). But there may be posts about trips halfway across the world, to trips a few hours away.

My first installments are going to be catch up from last year when we went to London. So expect to see lots about that. Those will be back dated to when we went. Otherwise, it's going to be a free-for-all on what I end up doing. Anyway...I hope you enjoy the journey.

Look for my first installment tomorrow!

Baby Sick

I've been so worried about Owen missing me and being ok while I am gone. Little did I know that I would be the one that would be a total mess. Last night as I was reading him his bedtime story my voice broke as I thought about it being the last time I would do so for 10 whole days. Then, I had to choke back tears as I sang to him before laying him in his crib. As I walked out of his room I broke down into tears.

Today Owen seemed off and I think he could tell that something was up. I tried to keep it together as best i could so he wouldn't see Mama cry. We all went outside together and Miles and I gave him hugs and kisses and got in the car. He waved and said "Bye, Mama!" It just about broke my heart. I started to cry as we drove away and already have had two other moments of sadness since then and we haven't even boarded the plane. Not to mention that I have already called my mom to check up on him three times. Boy am I a mess! I just hope that once we are in London I can enjoy myself and have a good time. I am super excited to go, but I think I will be just as excited when we return.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


We heard about Pumpkinland from a couple of our friends, so we decided to check it out. We went on a Saturday with our friends, Chase, Christy and Mila Gunnell. Our camera battery died on us, but the Gunnells were nice enough to take pictures for us.
It was the perfect beautiful, sunny, fall day to be there.
We started out with the corn maze. Here is Chase with a cutie Mila:There was a sign saying to find the "hidden, secret room" in the corn maze. If we did, we would get a treat. We worked really hard to find it. Finally...SUCCESS!Of course we couldn't resist this photo op:
And another one...It was just hard to get our "kitties" to look in the right direction.
After we finished the corn maze, we went through the animal farm. We first came upon some goats.
Owen wasn't too sure...
This poor guy had his head stuck. We had to work pretty hard to get him turned just the right way to get his horns back through the fence.
Christy & Mila and me & Owen in a giant pumpkin:
Owen really enjoyed crawling through this caterpillar tunnel:
A final shot of the babes on some humongous pumpkins before leaving:
It was a really fun day and Owen had a blast running around the maze, petting the animals, climbing and crawling all over the place. Owen is at such a fun age right now and is really starting to enjoy activities like this. We came home with two tiny, Owen-sized pumpkins. I'm so glad we went and I'm excited to go again next year.